Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Way Of The Tiger - The Challenge Of Moving From Novel To Gamebook Writing

As some of you already know, The Way of the Tiger is coming back in a big way. The Kickstarter has decimated its goal of $10,000 and is now ploughing upwards to lofty financial heights.

So it gives me enormous pleasure to welcome once again to The Trollish Delver my good friend David Walters, who is writing the prequel gamebook - Ninja!. This is the third and final part of an epic post about writing the book, the first of which appeared on Brewin's blog and the second on Stuart Lloyd's.

Without further ado, here's Mr Walters with the skinny on the new book.

I’m David Walters, and I was tasked with writing the prequel story to the Way of the Tiger books, a series of six ninja gamebooks set on the world of Orb. As an author of more than half a dozen novels, the chance to write a gamebook came as something of a challenge. Here is a summary of some of the issues I encountered.

Instead of writing chapters or scenes, I was now limited by the gamebook format of shorter paragraphs. This presented challenges in terms of how quickly and concisely I had to present information, particularly key information on which the choices at the end of the paragraph rested. Also, instead of having a dramatic or compelling final sentence to a scene I had to instead end paragraphs by presenting the reader with choices. Although at first I was concerned that this may dispel some of the strength of the narrative, I found ways to use gamebook paragraphs to build tension, making the format work for me.

The focus on writing a gamebook is on presenting choices (hopefully interesting ones), rather than simply producing a dramatic ending to a scene. In a novel an author can also strictly control the pace of the story, but in a gamebook the reader’s choices (and indeed dice rolls) affect the pace. Although the pacing the reader would experience was at times outside my control, I found the advantage of a gamebook was that a reader could re-read and create a different story, choosing their own path and interacting with the world in a way that a reader of a novel never could.

As well as tracking the many branching narratives and their impact on the character and the story, I found that a gamebook author also has to track items and rules too. This was initially a challenge as it was quite different from a novel: a novel may have multiple plotlines, but they all combine to a single story. Another issue I came across was that a gamebook author has to edit for gameplay balance which often seemed at odds with the creative process, and certainly not something a novelist has normally to worry about.

At first I found it difficult to show the gamebook’s main character in the same level of depth as I would in a novel. After all, the reader is making the choices and rolling the dice, which means you cannot always be in the main character’s head. Throughout the writing process though I learned that the skills and style of the main character could hint at certain attitudes whilst still allowing the reader to imagine their own version of Avenger. Also it was interesting to explore the background of other characters in the gamebook through choices in dialogue or giving information out under one choice that another reader would not find if they made another choice.

The Way of the Tiger Kickstarter is running until 1st November.